The Prohibition Party is the oldest third party in the USA. It has offered candidates consistently since 1872. Although public health issues have been at the forefront of the party's history, it has from time to time emphasized other issues, particularly good government issues. Its history breaks down into five general time frames.
The "prophetic" era, 1872-1900.
In 1872, the Prohibition Party held its first national nominating convention and welcomed women and blacks as full delegates. Leaders of the earlier temperance campaigns of the 1850s, when half of the nation passed laws banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol, decided to stop working through the two major parties. The party benefited from well-known leaders who brought financial support with them. It was this generation that won the Prohibition Party its reputation of favoring open government (as opposed to the machine politics of the two major parties), resulting in the party's absorption of the Honest Government Party in 1898. This generation of prohibitionists believed that no state should use "states rights" to undermine movements emphasizing moral or public health issues.
The organizational years, 1900-1920
Beginning just after 1900, Party leaders moved from an emphasis on "education" to an emphasis of results. National party leaders, particularly Charles R. Jones (1905-1912) and Virgil Hinshaw (1912-1924) developed a plan to achieve prohibition. The plan had three phases: 1) local option laws and state action; 2) getting women the right to vote (since they were much more in favor of prohibition than men); and 3) passing a national constitutional amendment. This generation began to see success in the midterm elections of 1906, and twelve years later they had achieved all the major platform points.
The plateau years, 1920-1932
During the years of national prohibition, the political party suffered a series of divisions. Some party members believed that the party had no purpose any longer, while others sought to merge with the major parties - particularly in 1928 when the Prohibition candidates withdrew in favor of Hoover.
The long decline, 1932-2000
When Prohibition was repealed, the people who had worked for its adoption came out of the woodwork. Prohibition Party support reached levels not seen in over a decade, and in fact the candidate with the largest all-time vote on the Prohibition ticket ran in 1932. Party members believed that "progressive" politicians had betrayed the movement, which led to a reaction within the party. Although some moderate politicians remained within the Prohibition Party, by the mid-twentieth century, the Prohibition Party was a center-right political group. The decline accelerated after 1980. Between 1980 and 2000, state party organizations floundered or disappeared. Advocates for new leadership lost by one vote at the 1999 national convention. In 2000, the party leader only achieved ballot status in one state - an event that shifted the balance of power in the party.
Rebuilding, since 2000
The Prohibition Party divided into two factions in 2003 after the party leader held the national convention and only invited party members who supported his leadership. The majority faction, representing roughly 80% of the party, was shut out of the proceedings. Their leaders vacated his nomination and began to re-organize the party nationally and locally. The majority faction nominated Gene Amondson for President, and his ticket immediately reversed a two-decade decline in votes with the highest support in 16 years, nine times the vote of 2000. The 2005 national mid-term conference approved further plans for rebuilding the party locally and nationally. In 2006, the Party regained ballot status in Florida and organized a new campaign committee in Pennsylvania.
With the death of the minority faction leader in late 2003, the movement to re-unify the party has gained traction. The minority faction nominated Amondson as their presidential nominee and has started the process of merging the two national committees. In the meantime, the majority faction has achieved ballot status in four states - currently sponsoring the most Presidential Electors since 1980.